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Dvar Torah - Parsha Shemini

Mario Gabriele recently wrote a fascinating article about Red Bull ( In it, he talks about how Red Bull, the company, does only one thing. It is one of the most highly specialised companies on earth. That thing is not the manufacture of Red Bull. In fact, Red Bull is manufactured by an American juice company. Red Bull, the company, worries only about marketing and brand, and with that focus has cornered 42% of the global energy drink market.

Red Bull is an (albeit extreme) example of a malaise that plagues our society: the death of honesty. Instead of actually manufacturing something and contributing something of value to society, they merely market a product that already existed. Red Bull doesn't worry at all about what the product is, about its quality, about what is in it. They worry entirely, exclusively, about how it is perceived. Red Bull is an example of the triumph of perception versus reality in the modern world. Red Bull is an example of something which the Torah warns against this week. This week's Parsha tells us of the many non-kosher animals. Of them all, one stands out: the pig. The pig initially looks kosher due to its split hooves, but it is in the internal, hidden sign for a kosher animal that we find it is lacking: the pig does not chew its cud. The pig tricks us into thinking it ought to be permitted, but in reality, it is just as forbidden as its fellow non-kosher animals.

In our perception based world. we constantly are thrown thoughts, images, suggestions, demands, based on image and not based on reality. We are constantly told, whether overtly or subtly, to perceive reality as different to what it is. In contrast, the lesson of the Torah is that it is only through scrupulous honesty with ourselves, and with others, that we can build the world in a worthwhile fashion.

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